Developing a Sense of Self

How do babies develop a sense of self? When does this realization occur? Does your little one recognize him or herself in the mirror? That’s only one part of a much more complex process.

Research has found that from the moment they are born, babies are well aware of their own bodies. Body awareness is a key skill that helps distinguish oneself from others. Since birth, they are exposed to information related to who they are – they can touch their faces and body and exert their influence on the world that surrounds them.

“Selfhood starts at birth, but children don’t start expressing an “idea of me” until toddlerhood.” – (Ross, Martin, & Cunningham, 2016).

At around the second half of your baby’s first year, he or she will begin to respond to his or her name. At first, he or she might simply stop to listen and focus his or her eyes in your direction when you call for him or her. Later on, closer to his or her first birthday, your little one will respond by turning, crawling or even taking a few steps towards you!

It’s not until their second birthday nears when children develop a sense of self – when they can think about themselves from the point of view from someone else. One indication of this is when children start recognizing themselves in a mirror or photograph, most children can do this at around 18 months.

To notice if your little one does recognize him or herself in the mirror, you can carry out a small experiment at home. Without letting him or her know, place a mark on your little one’s forehead. For example, you can give him or her a kiss when wearing bright lipstick. Then, let your little one look at his or her reflection in the mirror and if he or she reaches up to touch his or her forehead then that indicates that he or she recognizes that the image in the mirror is of him or herself.

You can also notice your little one’s developing sense of self through his or her expanding vocabulary – specifically self-referential and possessive words like I, me, my and mine. Are these words part of your toddler’s vocabulary?

To help your little one create a positive sense of self you have to let them develop in ways that are attuned with his or her innate qualities and personality. Respect your little one’s individuality so that they in turn build self-confidence and take on life’s challenges enthusiastically.


Ross, J., Martin, D., & Cunningham, S. (2016, October 17). How do children develop a sense of self? Retrieved November 16, 2016, from

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>